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Originally published May 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Page modified May 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM

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Atheists counter prediction of doom with 'Rapture party'

Atheist groups across the country — including in the Puget Sound area — are hosting "Rapture parties" in response to a prediction by a Christian radio broadcaster that the Rapture will occur May 21.

Seattle Times staff reporter

For more information

Family Radio: www.familyradio.com

Rapture party: 8 p.m. Saturday to 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Dorky's Arcade, 754 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, $10, www.wecantknow.com

Rapture Relief: www.rapture-relief.org

quotes rap·ture - noun /?rapCH?r/ Definition: A feeling of intense pleasure or... Read more
quotes Well, here's how you sort it out. Go to everyone of those believers and ask them to... Read more
quotes The wager is how many days after May 21, 2011 will Camp's group claim that it was... Read more

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The way Seattle atheist Paul Case sees it, holding a "Rapture party" on Saturday, the date a Christian radio broadcaster who's getting national attention says the Rapture is supposed to happen, is a can't-lose proposition.

If the Rapture indeed occurs, and Christians worldwide are transported to heaven, "we know as atheists, we're not going," said Case, one of several people organizing the Saturday party in Tacoma. It's one of several such gatherings being organized by atheist groups nationwide.

"If it occurs, it's a good thing for us," he said. "We get the real estate and cheap cars, and we won't have to worry about separation of church and state."

On the other hand, if the Rapture doesn't happen, "it's another egg in the face of those who say the end times will come. So it's a win-win for us," Case said.

The prediction prompting the parties comes from Harold Camping, an 89-year-old civil engineer by training. Camping heads Family Radio, also known as Family Stations, an Oakland, Calif.-based network of about 66 Christian radio stations, including those in Kirkland and Longview. Family Radio, which does not have any denominational ties, also broadcasts internationally.

Looking at biblical passages, and using mathematical calculations, Camping says he's pinpointed the date of the Rapture to May 21. Those left on Earth will then go through five months of "horror and chaos beyond description" before the world ends on Oct. 21, according to Family Radio's website.

Thomas Holt, a volunteer with Family Radio, calls those who poke fun at Camping's predictions "scoffers," referring to 2 Peter 3:3-4, which says: "you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised?' "

But Camping's prediction is not widely accepted, despite his beliefs being featured on billboards in various cities and in media stories nationwide.

For many Christians, end-of-the-world scenarios aren't something they give much attention to.

And of the many who do, there have been concerns raised that Camping's prediction contradicts Scripture.

"There are a long line of brilliant people who, through intricate calculations, have made predictions about the end of the world," said Pastor Joseph Fuiten with Cedar Park Assembly of God Church in Bothell. "Unfortunately they have overlooked the obvious words of Jesus: 'You do not know the day or the hour' of such events."

But it's atheists, in particular, who appear to be poking the most fun.

In Tacoma, producers of the weekly radio show "Ask an Atheist" are sponsoring the local Rapture party. Their slogan: "Countdown to Backpedaling: The End is Nah!"

While Seattle Atheists aren't hosting a party that night, they are collecting money for humanitarian relief should the Rapture occur.

The end of the world "is obviously disconcerting news, and we thought we'd lend a hand," the group says on its "Rapture Relief" website. "While the rest of the world is tortured in this terrible Apocalypse, ... elite squads of godless heathens will ... help bring people out of the rubble and rebuild their lives."

(If the end times don't happen as predicted, Seattle Atheists says the money raised will go to Camp Quest, which teaches children critical thinking skills.)

Holt, of Family Radio, for one, has no doubt that the Rapture will occur Saturday: "The Bible clearly predicts it will."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

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